Theatre Review: “To Live, You Have to Love”


Once, the Musical, book by Enda Walsh, music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová; produced by Phoenix Theatre: seen June 11, 2014

When I heard Once, the Musical was still playing in London, I knew I would have to figure out a way to attend while I was here. Alas, I missed Arthur Darvill’s starring in it (his last performance was May 11), but that was only one of several reasons I wanted to see this musical.

I had discovered the music through Accuradio and their Broadway channel. I’ve been a fan of Irish & Celtic music (both traditional and modern) for a while now, and so at the first strains of “Falling Slowly”, I was hooked.

I knew a little bit about the play: I had known it was based on the independent film of the same name, and knew the plot was about a musician wanting to make it big for his girlfriend. Knowing it was Irish in nature, and going with the stereotype that Irish music is all depressing (by the lyrics, if not the beat), I was fully prepared to be completely in tears by the end of the show.

And yet ….

Turns out I only knew just enough to be mistaken. The plot is kind of what I thought it was, but not. An Irish musician meets up with a Czech girl, who convinces him to make a record. He’s trying to make it big in order to make it to New York, where his girlfriend is; she’s got a kid with her and seems to be in a discordant relationship with the father. The two, of course, fall in love … and I won’t tell you anything more.

When the show insists you come up on the stage for a drink, you go.

While yes, there are some sad parts, I was pleasantly surprised at how funny the show ended up being. I had forgotten about reading that the musical had a bar on stage open to audience members prior to the show and during intermission. Of course, when you’re invited on stage, you go – and so I headed up prior to the show and had myself a Carlsberg in a Once tumbler I then got to keep.

The show was the type that reminded me why I love theatre, giving me chills multiple times. Heartbreakingly beautiful, the acting was superb, the singing was transcendental, and at the end, I willingly gave them a standing ovation. If I had the money (and didn’t want to see as many different shows as I could), I would gladly see it again.

Once continues to play at the Phoenix indefinitely. For more information, visit Once The Musical’s website.

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